Monthly Archives: August 2012

Slicing the Pie (Chapters and Breaking Down your Book)


Although I am pretty sure someone might have tried it, reading an entire book without chapters (or at least something to break apart the text) after a story is at least thirty thousand words might  be maddening to read.  This is why we have chapters and other ways to break up the text for normal length or greater novels, but the methods people use to decide how long a chapter is varies not just amongst authors, but even different books from the same author.  Like every other conscious decision by an author, deciding how to break up your chapters is one more way to give distinction to your book, and highlight various aspects that constitute your novel.

Past blogs have discussed how to group your chapters, such as by characters, by location, or by event.  Except in the case of the event this still does not control when you close a chapter.  Authors typically choose different things to end chapters such as trying to tell a series of short stories (so the chapters need small beginnings, middle, and ends), building up to specific events or revelations, needing to always end on cliffhangers, wanting a resolution of some kind at the end of every chapter, or just a single scene imparting one specific piece of knowledge to the reader.   There are also more esoteric ways to do it such as each chapter being a length of time (like a day, or even a week or month, think like what 24 did for TV), a specific word count, or some other framing device (like a story that each chapter switches to another one when a new protagonist is met so that the narrative has a constantly changing narrator).

Just like slicing a pizza can affect the dining experience, which of the above (or combination of them) you choose sets a certain tone for the book.  Most authors use only a few of the above per novel, otherwise chapter endings can feel random and inconsistent.  They may vary it up for specific reasons occasionally (such as suddenly doing a series of page long chapters when trying to build tension by showing a series of short scenes) but they will generally have some sort of structure that the reader can expect.  The biggest combination writers often use is having chapters that are similar in length, and then use one of the other above ideas (scenes, small stories, cliffhangers, specific events, etc) as a framework besides just length.

When originally writing the next book in the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy, Rise From the Sun Below, I had “determined” that I was going to make most chapters roughly 5000 words.  Like the last book that would help me know roughly how big the book would be and keep me on course for getting it done in a timely manner if I could do at least one chapter a week.  In reality what it started doing was making me want to artificially pad the word count (a tendency that authors often have in the beginning of their careers anyway) and draw out scenes past their normal termination point.  Most of the time in my chapters for this book I am doing two to three scenes a chapter, and each one points to a bigger theme or revelation. I am combining several of the above techniques, and since many of the chapters fit within swashbuckling genre, they often end in a cliffhanger.  I finally decided sticking to those guidelines, as opposed to a specific word count were better for the health of the novel.

Reaching for a word count of any kind is dangerous for anything but a college paper.  It encourages people to use more words to explain simple concepts, and sets the bar higher for when people try more professional avenues of writing such as journalism or novels.  Both of those mediums prefer high word economy and are almost diametrically opposite to what school papers encourage.  Therefore although similar chapter size might help with familiarity, it is better to set a general range for you chapters then a true uniform size.  Even with that advice,  I recommend erring on the side of shorter chapters if you have already relayed all the information you need to do in a chapter.  Few people want a pie with eight inch crust because you ran out of the actual cheese and toppings.

In other news, the final day of the #RoadToWorldcon is today, and there are still the following novels you can get FREE today:

FIRST CHOSEN – (Fantasy) by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/First-Chosen-Tears-Series-ebook/dp/B0055I14BG/

•                                       ONCE WE WERE LIKE WOLVES by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/Once-Wolves-Tears-Series-ebook/dp/B006OSSF7C/

•                                       ARMS OF THE STORM by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/Arms-Storm-Tears-Series-ebook/dp/B008P8DE0C

•                                       HALLOWEEN JACK AND THE DEVIL’S GATE by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Jack-Devils-Gate-ebook/dp/B005XJ0V7A/

•                                       ELEGY (Fantasy) by Christopher Kellen

http://www.amazon.com/Elegy-The-Arbiter-Codex-ebook/dp/B005ESFMMY/

•                                       THE HERO ALWAYS WINS – (Fantasy) by Robert Eaton

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hero-Always-Wins-ebook/dp/B005CMGZAU/

•                                       THE FALL OF HOUSE NEMENI by M.D. Kenning

http://www.amazon.com/Fall-House-Nemeni-Allmothers-ebook/dp/B00847364S

•                                       MANDATORY PARADISE by M.D. Kenning

http://www.amazon.com/Mandatory-Paradise-ebook/dp/B008XM6ST4/

•                                       KNIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by Stephen E. Moore

http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Living-Strange-Knights-ebook/dp/B004YR54LU/

•                                       KNIGHT TERRORS by Stephen E. Moore

http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Terrors-Strange-Knights-ebook/dp/B0069SJIHI


Short Stories: Doing More with Less


Personally, giant Epics have often been my favorite novels to read.  The form allows a level of depth (into the characters and their histories) and breadth (amount of characters and span of events) that other forms do now allow.  Another favorite form of mine, however, is the short story.  I personally find them harder to write, as they do not allow as much time or character span as a giant epic.  What they do excel in is giving a fantastic window into a character and normally one event or a small series of events.  This smaller focus often can create more powerful scenes and dialogue than the larger form, for every word must be razor focused to do its job correctly.

My favorite form of reading short stories is anthologies.  Whether it is a linked literary theme, a shared world, or something even more random reading multiple short stories at the same time seems to enhance them. You can compare and contrast how different stories handle the same theme.  If all done by the same writer even if there are no obvious links you can see how the writer highlights different characters or concepts in a variety of ways. Anthologies allow context to be given to stories without forcing them to be part of some larger linked story.

The best part of the short story is the author is not tempted to put anything even slightly extraneous in there.  As a reader is perusing the story they know that everything noted upon has some reason to be there.  It is like viewing art made with small tight brush strokes that focus on a small area.   Word economy actually becomes an art form, and it’s also almost impossible for a reader to lose interest unless it’s very poorly written or does not connect with the reader at all.  Backstory must be kept to a sheer minimum and if it’s does not affect the immediate main plot or actions occurring, it is not there.  Much like what timing is to comedy pacing is to short stories.  It must be honed to perfection in order for it to operate as it should.

The tools authors use to create good short stories include keeping external descriptions to a minimum, using terse wording to paint an idea of the world the characters habit.  Exposition is also kept to a minimum, and only occurs in dialogue or very truncated monologues.  Every word spoken in a dialogue sheds light on either the characters or situation.  Repetition to reinforce them is obviously not suggested in short stories, but actions and ideas that reinforce a theme can occur instead.

I personally love the various George RR Martin edited short stories and have used those anthologies to widen my knowledge of authors.  On the smaller press and e publishing scale I am recommending Frances Pauli http://francespauli.com/ who if you go to her blog site http://francespauli.blogspot.com/ today and comment in her comments, she will give you a coupon for her anthology to be free (this is for smash words, so it is cross platform readable! ) I am not going to lie, free anthologies are some of my favorites, and a real fantastic way of knowing what an author can be like.

Today is the second day of the Genre Underground Road to WorldCon.  Stay tuned tomorrow for information on some free books associated with us!

Poll:

I prefer reading:

A)Giant Epics large enough to Kill Spiders

B) “Average” length books of 70-100 k words

C)Short Stories

World Info:

Today’s Info Tidbit is from Mandatory Paradise

Although scrolls and even a few books exist on Nimoa, in most cases the written word is not trusted.  People have been raised to believe the outside world before the Cataclysm lied, often.  They think the written word was a form of propaganda, and that people believe whatever they read was true, without thinking critically of it.  Citizens of Nimoa are taught they need to memorize information and think critically of anything they are told.  This is why their classes are primarily oral in nature, and most homework involves interacting with servants, parents, or other adults to help them memorize or learn information.

This distrust of the written word is so strong that even many teachers do not like it, with the exception of a few.  It is thought anything important enough to keep concrete in memory will be done by the Bureaucrats and the Library Mind.  Since the Senators have full access to the Library Mind they will keep all information “honest.”  At least, that is what is said.


Inner Monologue vs. Dialogue (Revealing Information)


Besides describing events as they occur the main way information is relayed to the user is through dialogue of the characters and the characters inner thoughts.  Good writing has a balance of this, for they both have different uses in pushing the story forward.  There are reasons to rely more on one than the other, depending upon the feel you are trying to evoke in your narrative.

Dialogue has the advantage of simultaneously moving the narrative along and possibly relating personal or past information at the same time. It does not however allow the same amount of inner thought to be revealed as internal monologues do.  That does not mean that NO inner thought is revealed that way.  Word choice, the topics spoke of, idioms used and other subtleties can clue the reader in to things that other characters might not pick up on. Overall though dialogue is better at conveying more overt information, unless it is in character for the speaker to say things that have primarily double meanings.

Narratives heavy in dialogue seem to read much quicker.  Some readers actually crave the dialogue so much they skip past scenes that do not have it.  Most information we gain about someone in real life comes from talking to someone else.  Sure you may occasionally read of people that become your friends, but often getting to know someone starts off as a conversation with them, or about them.  Because of this dialogue feels like a very “natural” way for information to be conveyed, and helps make that a primary form of fast reading for many people.

People often slow down when reading inner monologues, partially because in real life that is not something we can do.  They are essential however for conveying information that is internalized.  A lot of history, personality, and subtleties are easier to understand when coming directly from the characters head.  Context is often key to truly understanding a character.  Most people do not constantly talk about their past with others, and stuffing your novels with flashbacks is cumbersome (I know, this coming from the guy who is showing 12 years over twelve flashbacks over the course of a trilogy).

Without those resources the main way to deal with the past is the way many people do in real life.  When things occur or even when idle it reminds them of other events that have some sort of similarity.  In addition to relaying past information an inner monologue can often be the only way to really know how a character feels about a situation, especially if it is opposite of their words or tones used.  It is easier to convey dramatic irony through inner monologues, and can add depth to a novel.

Narratives where the focus is on introspection, where nothing is as it seems, and the focus is on what lies beneath the surface will often have a disproportionate amount of inner monologues.  The biggest issues coming from this however is that it can slow down the reader.  Also, depending upon the reader or technique used, it can fall opposite of the normal “show don’t tell” rule of writing.

Pulp writing has little inner monologues while mysteries often come from a first person perspective  that has most of even its dialogue sandwiched by inner thoughts and reactions.  Fantasy and sci fi depends on the style used.  Swords and Sorcery books come from the same vein as pulp, and therefore are dialogue or description heavy (more of that next blog).  Large Epics often want to get in characters heads, and tend to lean more towards the inner monologues.

Poll:

Which technique do you prefer?:

1)More Inner Monologue

2)More Dialogue

3)No Preference

World Info:

Let’s go back to the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy, since that is what I am writing currently.  Although not touched on heavily in the first book (but it is referenced) there are many “schools” of sword fighting available.  Each Island has at least one school, no matter how big it is, and the largest Islands have many.  Cenive for example, has ten large sword schools.  Although any one form any guild or family can learn any style, most of the time those from the same guild learn the same style.

The Nemeni for example primarily learn the Southern Quarters style, which emphasizes two swords and precision.  The Tanello instead learn the Staccato style,  which uses rapiers only and is named after the fact it’s students learn to fight to music.  There forms are taught connected to both orchestra and opera, and many of it’s students reach for a sword whenever they hear the appropriate music.

These schools are not only useful for learning how to fight, but give one a network of friends that can be relied upon.  Houses and guilds should remain higher than that, but many see their Sword School as great family then blood itself.  It should be telling that  the Nemeni officially are not supposed to learn any style other than Southern Quarter, so that there should never be a conflict of loyalty.


Letting a Book Go (post publication)


So your book is done, it’s published and the world now has access to it.  What do you do next?  In my opinion, boot up the computer and start typing your next book.  That doesn’t mean you do not pay any attention to what you just released. You obviously need to talk about it, publicize it, and let others know it exists.  At the same time, right before a book is released you are living and breathing that book constantly.  You go over final edits, approve covers and formatting, and start setting up a support network for it.  All you can think of is that book day in, and day out.

If you are an e-author however your bread and butter is new books.  You don’t have the same publication machine as the large publishers, so you cannot be content to rest a bit before kicking out another book by the next year.  Not to mention in most cases your efforts have been more procedural based and you probably were not writing much while the book was about to be published.  Now is the time to hit they keyboard and move on!

The biggest advice I believe though is to not get caught up in the sales aspect of the new book.  It seems it takes 12-36 hours for payments to process, and it can make a person go insane if they just keep hitting refresh waiting for the latest sales reports.  Instead channel that fidgety energy into launching into the next narrative.

Another issues I have noticed is no matter how long you have a book in the editing process you can always think of little things you want to change or alter once it is out.  Unless it is important (like typos, grammar, major errors) then it is best just to let it go.  I have known several people who have written some great things but never tried to  publish it, for they could never find the “final” form they want it to be in.  Instead they clamp both hands on their manuscript down firmly and never release as they keep trying to perfect it into eternity.  I personally don’t think there is such thing as perfection, and if a majority of the people editing/beta reading like the product, it is time to let the world have it.

Not to mention one of the joys of e-publishing is if you really do need to make changes, you can do so after publication.  I would not recommend this with large story points, and of course you should thoroughly remove all spelling/grammar issues before hand.  If you really want to tweak that one piece of dialogue though, or add one sentence to a description to clarify intent, you can do that.  Don’t do it right away though.  Come back a month after your book is released, and then re-read it.  If you still have those issues it won’t be because you just could not let go, and then it won’t be a bad thing to make those alterations.

Poll

This poll is not completely related to this post.  It’s also different for me, because for once I am not starting a new book (still working on the second Allmother’s Fire book) or in the final process of getting another book out.  I am curious of something though, and it definitely ties into publishing:

Where do you hear about new books?:

1)Old Fashioned word of mouth.  My friends tell me about a great book, and I then try it.

2)Internet Retailers: I go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc and look at their recommendations for me

3)Reviews: From magazines, Goodreads, newspapers, I read something proactively to hear about new good books

4)Social media: I see what options are out there on Facebook, Google +, Pinterest

5)Actively see out new books.  I don’t randomly read reviews, but I will google for books similar to ones I already like.

World Info will return with the next blog.  I need some catch up time, and will be writing a blog for Genre Underground soon that I will link to.


Mandatory Paradise is published today!


The new book, Mandatory Paraidse,  is published!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008XM6ST4

Alnanla has not always enjoyed her life as a Priestess and a teacher, but she, like every citizen of the Island of Nimoa, has always had her needs met. At night she gazes up at the energy shield that keeps everyone safe from the flying monstrosities of legend, and she wants more than just to exist in her pre-ordained role. When hundreds of innocents are massacred, Alnanla finds herself to be the prime suspect. To clear her name, she teams up with a grieving Bureaucrat, an eternally optimistic Artist, a gruff Outsider and a sarcastic Spirit. As they begin to discover the details of what really happened, they find more than they bargained for. Should they expose the dark secrets they find and risk their society’s destruction? Or should they sacrifice their lives and let the lies continue in order to preserve the way of life that has given them all peace and safety for thousands of years?

One interesting aspect of the novels is each chapter is written in a style similar to the thought processes of the character it is showcasing.  Two of the characters have a rather flippant and sarcastic way of percieving the world, and it shows in their chapters.

Go and grab a copy today, and tell your friends as early sales are great for the life of a book!


Mandatory Paradise Cover Art (Fitting the tone of the Book)


Not the most creative title ever, but pretty accurate.  Here is the cover art to my new book below:

Cover art is very important, as often even before a synopsis is read a prospective reader will see the cover.  If you are in a list the title and the cover is all they have, and it must catch the eye and interests of a prospective reader.  It helps if it fit’s the book tonally too, so it is not jarring to a reader if they see an epic fantasy like cover then read a story mainly focused on economics.

The cover you see is not the first draft, and it is significantly different than the first.  The first had an authentic Minoan background, but it clashed a lot with the rest of the cover, and some people thought it would repel readers.  We chose the current background you see of a Labyrinth due too it’s importance to the story, and that it gave a neutral tone so the rest of the cover would “pop” better.

Also, the stark lack of details about book plot from the cover was done like many thrillers. The intent was to give more of a feel and less of a preview of what actually occurs in the book.  The only tone aspect that is not shown in the artwork is the “flippant” (think more Terry Pratchett) tone some chapters are told in due to who the characters are.  Each chapter is written featuring specific characters, and when that is happening the “voice” of the chapter synchs with who is starring in it.  So a chapter about a priestess or a bureaucrat will be more serious than one told from a rather frivolous artist or gruff outsider.

With all of those differences there was not a way to convey this on the cover without clashing in a very “busy” manner.  I do like the details in this cover and it holds up very well when increased in size, and I may eventually make this book available for print (there was resolution issues with my last one, and I will not be able to have that book ready for print until I can resolve them).

As for other final touches, the book will come out this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday.  There will be a blog post when it comes up.  I’m just doing one last once over and all of the involved formatting before it is released.  The Sample Chapter available at the top of this website has been altered to match the edited text of the book.

The final Synopsis has been made by the way :

Alnanla has not always enjoyed her life as a Priestess and a teacher, but she, like every citizen of the Island of Nimoa, has always had her needs met. At night she gazes up at the energy shield that keeps everyone safe from the flying monstrosities of legend, and she wants more than just to exist in her pre-ordained role. When hundreds of innocents are massacred, Alnanla finds herself to be the prime suspect. To clear her name, she teams up with a grieving Bureaucrat, an eternally optimistic Artist, a gruff Outsider and a sarcastic Spirit. As they begin to discover the details of what really happened, they find more than they bargained for. Should they expose the dark secrets they find and risk their society’s destruction? Or should  they sacrifice their lives and let the lies continue in order to preserve the way of life that has given them all peace and safety for thousands of years?

Poll Question:

Which cover do you prefer?:

A) The Fall of House Nemeni

B) Mandatory Paradise

There were aspects I liked about both covers, but due to the resolution issues I might contemplate using a different artist for the second Allmother’s Fire book than I used for the first one.  I personally like this new one more, but I am curious what my readers think.

Next Blog: THE RELEASE OF MANDATORY PARADISE!  Woo  hoo!


Interview with A. E. Marling


Today we have an interview with  A. E. Marling.  He is the author the best selling “Brood of Bones” a very unique epic fantasty.  This enthralling mystery has a complex and well detailed world and it comes highly recommended.
MD: This world is so original it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s start with this world’s religious/supernatural elements? Can you briefly describe the role Enchantress’, the Bright Palms, Feasters, and any other devotes of gods/goddesses in this world?

Briefly describe? No, I can’t.
I will say the Bright Palms disbelieve in all gods and hold nothing sacred except the heroic labors of the common man. That they also shun wealth puts them at odds with the enchantresses, who require jewels and gold for their craft. The Bright Palms also object to dread illusionists stalking the night, the Feasters.

MD: A lot of little details not often described in most fictions (such as clothes and jewelry and other accessories) seem to have a supreme importance in the book? Was this a conscious decision due to the personality of the main protagonist, or where their other reasons involved?

Jewels are the cogs and gears on which the protagonist’s magic turns. She also carves them as a hobby, and they’re a solace and a distraction for her in a life made difficult by her condition of chronic sleepiness. Enchantress Hiresha feels ashamed that she sleeps more than she lives, and to her, the gowns she wears are shields against potential scorn.

MD: This book is written from one main perspective and still maintains several fully fleshed out ‘background’ characters. Was there a specific influence or reason you preferred the novel to be from the perspective of one characters? Was there any issues stemming from those limitations?

In Brood of Bones the protagonist searches for the sorcerer responsible for wronging the women of her city, drawing power from their unnatural pregnancies. The story is a mystery, and in that genre, first person is the norm. Perhaps you could call Brood of Bones the Dresden Files in a dress. In many dresses, to be precise.

MD: With the exception of Jenny most people seem unaware of their weaknesses, and sometimes strengths. Is this a reaction to the lack of this in many books, or was it an unconscious decision or is there another motivation behind it?

A spoonful of realism helps the fantasy go down, and in real life, people rarely admit to their own weaknesses.

MD: Was there any specific inspiration for this book? Was all of it an attempt not to be similar to other fantasy novels, as the plot, world, and characters are very unique? Did you create the world as a whole first, or did little parts of it come to you at different times?

Enchantress Hiresha, the protagonist in my story, must succeed in spite of her disease of sleepiness, which we might call Idiopathic Hypersomnia. Once I had crafted her character I chose a plot that I felt would most test her. I threw her into the situation that would most upset her, the worst thing that could happen to her, because I respect her as a character. Strange, she has not thanked me for it.

MD: What is your background as a writer? Have you written anything in the past or are you inspired by any particular writers or styles or other media?

I wrote my first fantasy novella after my freshman year in high school. In college, I found nothing gave me a greater urge to write than science lectures, and I sat through a lot of ‘em. I have yet to repent my fascination with fantasy and am intrigued by its grip on the human imagination.
I am inspired by Sir Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson, Oscar Wilde, and PG Wodehouse.

MD: You delved right into events, with little explanation of the world or its characters. This means the reader has to keep up to understand what is happening or the importance of events, but gets rid of using clunky or artificial devices for explaining the world too. Was that the main reason for this style, or what other reasons (or reactions to other novels) were behind telling the story this way?

I respect the intelligence of my readers, and I assume they’re as impatient as I am to delve to the glittering vein of a story’s plot. I don’t feel the need to burden the narrative with every last facet of a fantasy world, and I trust readers to gather what they need to know based on the interactions between characters and the protagonist’s worries and musings.

MD: Are you planning other books with any of these characters? If not, why, if so, how connected will it be to the events of this book?

I have written two more stories set in the Lands of Loam, and one will feature Enchantress Hiresha as well as the Lord of the Feast. The other is a YA novel with an antihero protagonist. The former at least will be published this year. Currently I’m machinating novels beyond those.

 

MD: That’s all for this today!  Next blog: the new cover!


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